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Posts Tagged ‘Email Marketing’

Comments Off on What Does the Future Hold for Email and Social Marketing?

What Does the Future Hold for Email and Social Marketing?

2013 has arrived, and with it comes thoughts and ideas of how email and social marketing will evolve. While we can’t predict what will become the next big social media channel this year, we can give you some tips to help you stay ahead of the game.

Mobile Design – This may be the most important thing to consider for your email marketing this year. According to Litmus, 36% of emails are opened using a mobile device/tablet, and they predict it’ll be 50% by year’s end. Hence, mobile design is something you definitely want to take this into account when crafting your emails, and it’s not as hard as you may think. With a few minor tweaks, your email will render clearly for readers on a variety of devices or platforms, just follow these tips:

  • Keep the design slim – Around 500-600 pixels
  • Use call-to-action buttons
  • Use a simple, single column layout
  • Include links that’re large enough to “click” i.e., touch
  • Have a text-only email back up
  • Give your email the “touch screen” test (is it easy to navigate with your finger?)
  • Ensure your email renders/downloads properly on an iPhone

Social ROI – Remember the tag line from the movie, Field of Dreams? “If you build it, he will come.” It also applies to social media, as well as baseball fields. Once social media was built, people came in droves (hint: So get on it, if you’re not already!). And, social media no longer pertains to a certain age group or demographic; everyone’s on it. The key now, is to keep people continuously engaged with your business on social, and to do so, you simply need to keep at it! Here are a few engagement-inducing ideas:

  • Content is king – Share links, post videos and/or images (According to Facebook, posts that include a photo generate 120% more engagement).
  • Add value – Share useful information and tips, even if you’re sharing from other sources.
  • Interact and engage – Don’t just post and leave your page unattended – Answer questions, make comments, and ask questions.
  • Post on a regular basis – This could be multiple times a day, or several times a week depending on your customers and the content available.
  • For more social media engagement related posts, read: “Want Better Facebook Engagement? Stop What You’re Doing” and/or “What Motivates People to ‘Like’ or ‘Unlike’ Brands on Facebook“

You can actually track ROI on social media; you just need to set up some key tools. Facebook Insights is a great start for monitoring progress on your Facebook Page. Google Analytics (GA) will also track where people come from when they visit your website, plus it tracks activity on your social accounts. And, if you set up goals in GA, you can track conversions from social interactions. If you’re sharing links from your site, or sharing from another, using Bit.ly not only shortens long URLs, it also gives you tracking information about the people clicking on your links. Even if you aren’t tracking, don’t overlook the power of social engagement. SocialBakers has been tracking exactly this and find that more engagement on social creates more reach, more click throughs, and ultimately more conversion. So keep sharing great info, and it’ll pay off in the end!

Read the full article…

Comments Off on 8 Tips to Make Your Email Marketing Copy Shine

8 Tips to Make Your Email Marketing Copy Shine

by Janine Popick, CEO and founder of VerticalResponse

If you’re like me and in the business of marketing, you spend a great portion of your day writing. Writing emails, proposals, blog posts, guest articles … If you’ve got email marketing in the mix, that’s even more writing. How do you keep things interesting and “skim-able” for your email recipients so that they can quickly see what you want them to see, and still motivate them enough to take an action? Here are eight tips to help your email marketing copy shine and hopefully make the writing process a little easier.

1. Write using benefits, not features. Features are the things the product has. The iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch touch screen, 5 megapixel camera, 16 GB flash drive. I’m thinking great, but what does that do for me? Well, that means the iPhone 4 lets me easily take and store high-quality, print-ready photos – these are the benefits. As a marketer, you need to answer the recipient’s question, “What’s it going to do for me?” “How is it going to make my life easier?” Many businesses get caught up writing about themselves and all the nifty things they offer rather than how those nifty things will help their customers. Don’t make that mistake.

2. Sprinkle in subheads. Attracting the attention of your readers using subheads is a tried-and-true tactic. It breaks up your thoughts and gets to the heart of what you’re selling or promoting quickly. It lets the reader skim through the email yet still get the message you want to convey.

3. Keep it tight. You need to get to your point fast in small, succinct paragraphs. When was the last time you read an entire press release or news article in an email? No one likes to scroll and scroll and scroll (maybe unless they’re shopping for shoes!); it’s difficult and time-consuming. Include links off the page to more information so that if a reader does want more details, they can find it quickly and easily.

4. Use bullets. Bullets break up points or benefits so that, again, your readers can scan copy without losing any key takeaways. Bullets are great for email and Web writing in general.

Tips 5-8 are even more valuable. Get them in the full blog post.

In a nutshell:

  • Make it personal (with your photo)
  • Appeal to reader self-interest
  • Make your list signup prominent
  • Be sure the first email knock their socks off
  • Use split-tests to fine tune your methods

Building a solid email list has become an essential part of doing business online.  But doing it is a lot harder than recommending it. People guard their email addresses because of the tremendous oversupply of junk email out there.

Many website put up a box offering a “Free Newsletter” and think that is all it will take.  Results from that technique are usually disappointing.

I have been testing email sign-up forms for some time on this site and my clients’ sites and have narrowed down the top five ways to get more people to sign up for your email list.

Make it Personal

If you are part of a large company, personalize the communication by putting a photo of the person sending the email near the signup to help make the connection that this will be coming from a person, not just software.  If you happen to be an artist, author, or owner of a small company, this may be a less important detail, but I recommend testing it all the same.

“Why Should I Care?”

You have to give a compelling reason for people to subscribe to your email list.

If you have a report, a whitepaper, or some other digital asset that can be offered as a free download after signing up, that is the best type of offer.  It costs you little or nothing to give away, and yet has value to the recipient. People want something for their information, so make it worthwhile.

Adding a giveaway or some kind of premium usually increases response to the offer between 25-50%.

Don’t Let It Be Missed

If email is an important component to your marketing plan (and it should be), then why would you bury the signup pitch deep in your site?  Put it on the home page (or as many pages as it is appropriate for) and make sure it’s large, clear, and easy to respond to.  Some email marketing services give you the ability to simply create a popup for the user to signup and leave you site open in the window behind it. This has worked very well for us.

Regardless of the method you use for signups, just make sure it’s prominent and hard to miss.

Make a Great First Impression

You know the adage about not getting a second chance at this. It holds true pretty much for email too. Your first message will be the key to whether they stay on your list for more.

Don’t miss the opportunity to create a great “Welcome” letter that reminds them of all the great reasons why they signed up, what they can expect from you and when. Take the time to craft this message carefully and improve it over time as your newsletter or email campaign evolves.

What you don’t want to see are immediate unsubscribes for having received a poor Welcome message, or worse an email that appears unpersonalized out of the blue.

Test Test and Test Again

The only way to be sure what is bringing you the best results in developing email lists, or any marketing activity, is to run split tests. We recommend a random alternation of two or more different versions of your form or web page, and of course keeping good track of which one is bringing you more signups.

One of the best ways to do this is via a free tool that Google provides, the Website Optimizer.   Check out the tutorials to make the most of your time.

This subject is dear to our hearts around here, so we’ll be revisiting it often.  What are your experiences in building email lists?  Please share your thoughts and ideas by commenting here.
Comments Off on Eight Steps to Powerful, Irresistable Emails

Eight Steps to Powerful, Irresistable Emails

Email marketing is powerful, inexpensive, and frankly, a must for most small businesses and organizations today. So how can you make it work as well for you as you want it to?  We’ve adapted the following eight steps from a white paper by the email service, YesMail.

The content for your email is of course, hugely important, and the structure of your email matters more
than you might think.  By following these 8 steps, people won’t be able to help themselves; they’ll want
to open your emails and act on them (translation – they’ll read then buy).

1.  The more you know
The more familiar you are with your target audience, the better you can determine what the best
message is to convey to them.  Your message needs to be tailored to suit your objective and your
audience at the same time.

2.  Don’t go all “Tolstoy” on them
It’s not the time to struggle with your inner author. If you want to get overly descriptive and drawn
out, go write a book.  For email, you always need to keep your messages short and sweet. One or
two short paragraphs with brief sentences should be enough to get your message across.  People
don’t want to think too much and you’ve only got a few seconds to impress the reader enough to
click and take an action within your message.  Try being clever, or bring in some humor to the mix.
Think about how you react when you get a good email offer that engages you, and actually contains
something you really, really want.  Something you just have to have.  The response you desire is
almost caveman basic: “Offer good.  Me want to buy.”

3.  Get their attention
Clearly spell out the offer right up front.  Don’t let your audience lose interest in your message before
you even hit them with the goods.  Highlight the top reasons the offer is a must have and emphasize
the valid time frame for the offer right away.  This sense of urgency will be a nagging inner voice,
reminding them about this great deal.  Example:  “Limited time offer – 25% off Pool Repair when you
buy a deluxe pool cleaning kit by April 3rd, 2009!”  Summer is around the corner, that crack might get
bigger, and that kit will help Johnny keep the bugs and leaves out!  You get the idea.

4.  Taking action
Be sure to have call to action links to make it uber-easy for a customer to take the next step.  Include
links right at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of your email to help them take action.  In
addition to the offer itself, provide supporting documents, a free download, and a link to your website
for more information.  They are going to hop, skip and jump around your message.  Be ready for them
– and collect their contact information whenever it makes sense.

5.  Sally sells sea shells
You need to make sure your content reads well.  Read it out loud.  Seriously – find a quiet space, and let
it roll.  If your content reads like a tongue twister, or feels like you’re stumbling trying to get the words
out, it’s not going to be an easy read for the recipient.  It’s time to rewrite. When you’re confident in
your masterpiece, ask someone else to review it – they might have some great suggestions that you
didn’t even think of, or catch some grammatical errors that you skipped right over.

6.  Simplicity in design
A simple design is the most pleasing to the eye.  Don’t get overly complicated with format.  Loads of
graphics put the brain on sensory overload.   However, you need to strive for the right balance.  Have
a picture of your product or offering?  Add it in.  Offering a service of sorts?  Add in a nice graphic to
illustrate.  The right balance of pictures and text are an email’s best friend.
Be sure you are consistent with your style and image for follow on email campaigns – it helps the
customer remember you, and respond accordingly.

7.  Match the shoes with the bag
The subject line is the first thing folks will read when your email hits their inbox, so you need to make
sure your subject line relates to the topic of your email.  After your email is all laid out, it’s time to
think of the perfect subject line that will entice folks to open it up.

8.  Learn the lessons well, Grasshopper.
Track and measure your email campaigns.  Note how many emails bounce, get trashed without being
opened, and record how many visits you get to your website.  After a time, you can compare the
effectiveness of your campaigns and discern why one did better than another.  This will allow you to
learn from past mistakes, and make any tweaks you think necessary for the next round.
Your email marketing campaigns are sure to evolve as you fine tune your offerings with lessons learned
from past campaigns.  Give these proven and sound tactics a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, and many
sales to gain.

Comments Off on Blogs and Email: A One-Two Marketing Punch

Blogs and Email: A One-Two Marketing Punch

by Paul Chaney

I have long been an advocate of using blogs and email as complementary online marketing strategies. Blogs serve a customer acquisition function, while email serves a customer retention role. That belief was recently reinforced when I attended a webinar jointly sponsored by a new company, Compendium Blogware, and well-known email reputation service provider, Habeas.

It’s generally accepted that the two most widely engaged in online activities are search and email. Chris Baggott, Compendium’s co-founder and CEO, stated during the webinar that as much as 80 percent of all web-related activities begin with search. That’s where blogs make their mark, as search engine magnets. It’s not that Google knows a blog when it sees one, it’s that blogs contain the very elements that make a search engine salivate. According to Baggott they include:

  • Titles
  • Keywords
  • Recent Content
  • Lots of Content
  • Links
  • Relevance

Titles

Something magical happens when a blogger completes the blog post title field. Most blog platforms turn it into a title tag unique to the post. That’s pure gold where Google is concerned.

Keywords

Bloggers who understand the power of the medium will enrich their posts with niche-specific keywords, which helps Google better comprehend the topic being discussed.

Recent Content

Search engines love sites that are routinely updated and will return to index them again and again. Blogs are particularly suited to frequent updates due to their ease of use.

Lots of Content

Google can’t make sense of Flash animation or graphics, at least not yet. What it does see and understand are words, and blogs contain lots of them.

Links

Links serve two purposes in search engine optimization. One of the ways the Google algorithm understands the purpose of a site is by looking at both inbound and outbound links. Therefore, links to topically-relevant sites provides immense SEO value. Not only that, each time someone links to a site, Google sees that as a “vote” on their behalf. Bloggers are rabid linkers. The practice is at the very heart of the medium.

Relevance

Ever heard the term “Latent Semantic Indexing?” That’s what Google is up to these days. It’s more than indexing keywords. LSI, as it is known, takes a more holistic approach.

“Latent semantic indexing adds an important step to the document indexing process. In addition to recording which keywords a document contains, the method examines the document collection as a whole, to see which other documents contain some of those same words. LSI considers documents that have many words in common to be semantically close, and ones with few words in common to be semantically distant.” (Source: KnowledgeSearch.org)

It’s like the old “forest for the trees” analogy. Indexing keywords to determine relevance is to look at individual “trees,” whereas LSI seeks to look at the whole of the situation; the “forest.”

I’ve often said that a frequently-updated, keyword-optimized, thematically-relevant blog will rank well in search engines. I’ve seen it happen again and again, even for blogs that might be considered long-tail. Yet, while traffic acquisition is well and good, something more needs to happen in order to achieve ultimate effectiveness. Traffic to the blog needs to convert into traffic to the website and more. Compendium’s platform, for example, is designed with conversion in mind, including an opt-in email newsletter sign-up form among other things.

There are a number of ways blogs and email play well together. The webinar included four suggestions:

  • Build lists – Incorporating the newsletter subscription form as previously mentioned is a way for the relationship first established with the blogger to transcend to a relationship with the sponsoring company.
  • Use email to solicit blog content – By mentioning the company blog in the email newsletter, a bridge is created between the two. In addition, asking readers to submit suggestions for blog content or even going so far as to invite readers to submit content (guest posts) will further reinforce the relationship.
  • Use old email content for blog content – Repurposing content that, while valuable, may be languishing in the email newsletter archive is one way to give it new life.
  • Use blog content for email newsletters – Years ago I made the statement that blogs are good “seedbeds” for the formation of ideas that can be expanded on later or fleshed out for use in other forms, including email.

Something else to think about in terms of the relationship between blogs and email has to do with the number of times consumers are touched using either medium. For many companies, email newsletters are relegated to monthly syndication. That means the prospect or customer is only contacted 12 times per year, not nearly enough to establish a “top-of-mind” relationship. Even with weekly distribution, that still leaves six days out of the week when the customer does not hear from you. Blogs are a way to fill the gap, especially for those customers who subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. With regular posting customers can be touched a manifold number of times.

Of course, the ideal scenario would be one that integrates both blogs and email into one platform. (To my knowledge, the only company doing that at present is iContact. Barring that, one path to integration is the use of FeedBlitz, which takes blog posts and turns them into emails that can be scheduled for daily, weekly or monthly distribution. An opt-in form is added to the blog sidebar for readers to use in subscribing. And, if nothing else, there is always CTRL-C and CTRL-V for copying and pasting of content from the blog to the newsletter, or vice-versa.

The bottom line is, when used in concert, blogs and email can serve up a marketing haymaker. I heartily encourage using both.

Comments Off on Email Marketing Benchmarks for Small Business

Email Marketing Benchmarks for Small Business

from mailchimp.com

Average open, click, bounce and abuse complaint rates by industry

Our customers often ask us, “What kind of email open rates should companies like mine be expecting?” and “How many bounces are too many?” or, “What’s an acceptable abuse complaint rate?”

So we scanned over 273 million emails delivered by our system (where campaign tracking was activated, and where users actually reported their industry) and calculated average open rates, average click rates, average soft bounces, average hard bounces, and average abuse complaint rate by industry.

Best of all, these stats aren’t pulled from a survey of big giant corporations with million-dollar marketing budgets and dedicated email marketing teams. 70% of our customers are 1-10 employees, and they’re design-it-yourselfers. If you run a small organization, and you do your own email marketing, now you have an “apples to apples” comparison with others in your industry.

Average Email Campaign Stats of MailChimp Customers by Industry

Type of Company Open Rate Click Rate Soft Bounces Hard Bounces Abuse Complaints Unsubscribes
Accounting 27.36% 4.13% 3.91% 10.67% 0.04% 0.35%
Advertising 23.79% 4.20% 2.77% 6.67% 0.08% 0.36%
Architecture 32.05% 1.52% 6.16% 8.04% 0.00% 0.25%
Art 26.12% 6.86% 2.04% 4.49% 0.09% 0.41%
Arts_Music 16.22% 2.09% 0.97% 1.86% 0.08% 0.26%
Beauty/Health 29.88% 6.94% 2.63% 8.54% 0.15% 0.85%
Church 32.95% 4.48% 1.18% 2.89% 0.05% 0.26%
Construction 23.86% 4.44% 2.95% 5.33% 0.19% 0.85%
Consulting 22.34% 3.30% 4.29% 6.57% 0.03% 0.29%
Creative Agency 20.97% 3.12% 2.69% 5.16% 0.06% 0.38%
Creative Other 29.94% 0.86% 1.11% 0.60% 0.03% 0.10%
E-commerce 19.80% 4.78% 1.48% 3.21% 0.10% 0.37%
Education 25.86% 4.72% 2.11% 4.39% 0.05% 0.26%
Entertainment 15.42% 3.27% 1.10% 5.59% 0.12% 0.25%
Entertainment/Events 21.96% 0.42% 3.27% 7.58% 0.09% 0.14%
Financial Services 20.87% 2.47% 2.76% 3.98% 0.06% 0.33%
Food 36.62% 7.90% 0.84% 2.02% 0.09% 0.63%
Freelancer 32.95% 6.33% 3.16% 7.15% 0.07% 0.50%
Government 26.64% 4.30% 1.33% 1.95% 0.03% 0.22%
Graphic Design 25.35% 4.34% 2.49% 11.71% 0.12% 0.41%
Hardware 28.05% 3.57% 1.29% 2.01% 0.02% 0.18%
Healthcare 19.91% 3.99% 1.47% 3.81% 0.12% 0.50%
Healthcare/Medical 24.66% 6.96% 10.47% 9.00% 0.23% 0.41%
Hotel 27.50% 7.17% 2.90% 5.31% 0.08% 0.49%
Insurance 24.43% 2.92% 2.85% 5.71% 0.04% 0.37%
Internet/Web Svc. 20.34% 5.65% 1.46% 3.18% 0.06% 0.27%
Janitorial 27.82% 0.10% 10.18% 16.26% 0.05% 0.00%
Legal Services 25.48% 3.97% 4.14% 4.60% 0.04% 0.35%
Manufacturing 26.70% 4.92% 3.15% 5.61% 0.09% 0.46%
Marketing 20.52% 2.97% 3.32% 8.29% 0.16% 0.40%
Multimedia 19.46% 3.54% 1.24% 1.60% 0.06% 0.25%
Music 27.94% 5.17% 2.05% 7.73% 0.12% 0.39%
Non-profit 27.66% 4.06% 2.24% 4.31% 0.06% 0.24%
Other 15.29% 2.36% 1.74% 3.19% 0.07% 0.29%
Other Groups 27.66% 6.83% 1.72% 13.16% 0.08% 0.34%
Other Marketing 18.49% 3.66% 2.39% 3.15% 0.04% 0.21%
Photography 34.17% 6.82% 1.73% 3.59% 0.07% 0.36%
Public Relations 20.99% 3.13% 4.00% 8.21% 0.11% 0.30%
Publishing 21.05% 1.60% 1.11% 3.22% 0.03% 0.18%
Real Estate 22.84% 4.24% 2.02% 4.31% 0.08% 0.30%
Recruitment/Staffing 27.59% 4.61% 2.82% 6.49% 0.07% 0.74%
Restaurant 26.17% 3.40% 1.33% 3.44% 0.08% 0.41%
Retail 27.61% 5.76% 1.48% 2.80% 0.08% 0.42%
Self-Explanatory 34.80% 6.02% 6.14% 17.33% 0.04% 0.20%
Software 18.22% 3.26% 3.00% 6.01% 0.08% 0.43%
Technology 21.05% 2.75% 4.01% 6.60% 0.07% 0.40%
Telecommunications 29.77% 5.46% 2.98% 9.35% 0.10% 0.53%
Travel 24.97% 4.96% 2.17% 3.74% 0.10% 0.39%
Video Production 33.09% 6.81% 2.48% 2.63% 0.09% 0.43%
Web Design 27.42% 6.90% 2.45% 5.05% 0.09% 0.37%

Tips for improving your stats

Here are some useful tips from the MailChimp Resource Center for improving your email campaign performance

  • Boring works best. When you write your subject line, don’t sell what’s inside—tell what’s inside. Read our study on writing effective subject lines.
  • If you want people to open your emails, you need to get past their spam filters first. Avoid using spammy keywords and phrases, and avoid using ALL CAPS or too many exclamation points. The best way to avoid spam filters is to learn how they work.
  • Too many hard bounces is a sign of an old, stale list. People change email addresses every few months. Make sure you keep in touch with your list regularly (at least once a quarter) so they can stay subscribed to your list.
  • Soft bounces usually mean the recipient is “temporarily unavailable.” Maybe they’re on vacation or their mailbox is full. You can keep those emails and re-try them later (MailChimp auto-cleans soft bounces after 5 failed campaigns).
  • Hard bounces mean an email address failed. Maybe it no longer exists, or maybe someone typed their email wrong when they subscribed to a list. But hard bounces might also be spam filter rejections. If you see an abnormally high number of bounces after a campaign, you should read your bounce back records for any messages or “clues” from spam filters.
  • Abuse complaints happen when recipients click the “This is spam” button in their email programs. That usually means they don’t remember you. Make sure your “From:” and “Subject” contain your company name (so they’ll instantly recognize you). Here are more tips for preventing spam complaints.
Comments Off on Social Media While You Sleep, part 2 of 2

Social Media While You Sleep, part 2 of 2

IconsLast week, I showed how I quickly setup social media accounts and link them all to content from your blog or email message. As promised, this week’s post will advise on how to easily setup the blog-to-email blast function, and offer a few suggestions as to what makes for good content in these messages.

Even if you determine that the social networking part of online marketing is not for you, this part has value independent of that and can be used effectively on its own. Indeed, if you are not using email to communicate with (and sell to) your customers, you are missing a fundamental opportunity in today’s business landscape.

Let’s get into the nuts-and-bolts.

As described in a previous post, you should be gathering an email list and segmenting that list by as many relevant properties as possible. For example, it should be easy to identify which email addresses are those of people who have purchased from you from those that are only prospects. Even if you cannot do that now, you should take a look at how to identify different characteristics of your list so that you can target messages more appropriately to that group.

The next step in the process involves selecting an email marketing service. Companies that lead this field are iContact, Benchmark, and Constant Contact. I advise my clients to carefully choose the right company for you, based on how their features and pricing matches your requirements. A very complete reference for this comparison is here.

A key reason for using one of these services rather than just putting addresses into your BCC field is that many ISPs now tag such large BCC blasts as spam and your messages won’t be delivered. And of course you should NEVER put an email list into the CC field, as this is a disregard of the privacy concerns of all those whose addresses are literally then published to one another. Importantly, these services have business relationships with the major Internet pipeline providers so that mail coming from them is identified as complying with the anti-spam rules in place internationally. This improves your deliverability.

These services all feature premade “templates” which make your emails look snazzy and don’t require design or html skills. They also offer code snippets that your webmaster can implement so that people can signup directly from your web site. Perhaps most importantly for your business, they all offer analytics which allow you to measure how many of your emails were opened, clicked-on, and in some cases even ROI.

There’s that word again. ROI is important and is something I try to tie every project to, in terms of measuring success.

Each of these systems works a little differently, but if you look in the “help” sections, you are likely to find answers to the question, “how can you send a preformatted email automatically from your blog post, or from a plain text email.”

There are some really powerful desktop applications out there for bloggers. For example, Windows Live Writer is a program that you can download, then link to your blog. It’s actually a useful content editor. It lets you do photo uploading (and it integrates with flickr), plus you can create borders and edge/tilt effects. You can plop in videos, and it’ll automatically upload them to YouTube for you. It’ll tweet new posts automatically, add Digg links, handle multiple languages (with spellcheck), and it’s compatible with WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Windows Live, and more.

One of the email services I use (Mail Chimp) has built-in some of these functions to work like blogs. So you can actually use your usual blog publishing software to build MailChimp campaigns. In the Mail Chimp interface, just look for your special “Blog URL” under Lists >> Lists Tools and use that to setup your blog software.

Or of course if you need a hand sifting through all of this, I’m happy to help. Contact me.

Ready to Blog/email/Network…Now What?

Email newsletters can achieve measurable results – contributing to list-building, lead generation, product development, customer acquisition, retention, and much more.

Gone are the days of aimless newsletters. Today’s successful newsletter must have a specific, measurable purpose that provides the extra oomph your company needs. Though the “results” bar has been raised, email newsletters remain a highly-efficient vehicle for delivering marketing results.

I do believe that the subject of what you send out through your email marketing channel is deep enough for its own series of posts, but here are some suggestions that may help to get you started.

1. Your subject line is the most important piece
If you can’t get your email opened, it’s an opportunity lost. Spend the most time crafting a tempting title that your recipients can’t resist opening. But be careful, don’t promise something that the body of your email does not deliver.

2. Keep your text brief and link to site content
The most successful model is a paragraph from your blog post with links back to your site to read the full aticle. Use images judiciously as they slow down delivery, and in some cases do not get seen at all.

3. Intersperse actual ad content between your news items
Be sure to label ad content as such, but put relevant product or service promotions in between the news items in the email. Watch your ad-to-news ration to make sure you keep it reasonable. what’s rerasonable? Depends on your content, but I’d say 3/2 news to ads is a good rule of thumb.

4. Make your news relevant and general
Of course specific news about your company is great to put out, but you’ll build your credibility by including generally intersting info that you learn about. Pass along industry statistics, events, new ideas that some from anywhere you may find them.

Most bloggers and businesses are happy to have you doing some promotional work for their content. Don’t forget to credit your sources and link back when possible. Who knows? You just might find that others are taking your content and doing the same. Now that’s leveraging Social Media!

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OK, You’ve Built a Great List. Now What?

Interested in exploring what email marketing can do for you? Contact us and we’ll give you an idea what to expect.

Email marketing is essential for small businesses today. The good news is it’s inexpensive and compares favorably to results metrics for many other media. The bad news (or less good news), is that it takes commitment, discipline, and creativity to do it right.

Whether its a newsletter pumped out of your blog, or a special sale announcement, or simply an image ad, you need to make decisions that are backed by factual data that support your ultimate business goals.

While many of our clients prefer to leave this work to me and my team, others enjoy getting their hands dirty with managing their own email marketing. We can help in almost all cases.

For those interested in best practices, this article contains some great ideas culled from a white-paper distributed by Lyris, a digital marketing company that offers a number of good services, similar to Vertical Response, and others we work with.

While 25 Essentials may sound extensive, keep in mind that missing any one of these can affect your ROI, secure your position on blacklists, or damage your reputation with clients and prospects. And while many of the essentials on this list seem obvious, the list itself serves as a good reminder of the many nuts and bolts mechanics that you should maintain in order to keep your email campaigns performing at their highest levels.

1. Permission is not optional
When you send unsolicited email, you hurt your brand, your campaign and your sender reputation. Don’t use “stealth” methods to collect email addresses such as pre-checked boxes on site registration forms. Use a proper, two-stage opt-in process that requires confirmation before the address goes into your database. Ask subscribers who have been on your list for more than 12 months if they want to continue receiving your email and retain all the permission data on each subscriber.

2. Manage your sender reputation
Don’t get on an ISP’s bad side by sending too many emails too often or by generating a high number of spam complaints. ISPs will block your emails, shunt them to oblivion in the bulk folder and won’t bother to tell you what you did wrong. Here are some valuable tips for managing your sender reputation:

  • Honor unsubscribe requests within the ten-day window
    dictated by CAN-SPAM laws.
  • Stay off blacklists by monitoring, resolving and learning
    from spam complaints. If you’re delivering relevant
    content in formats that recipients want, you’ll minimize
    those complaints.
  • Use a double opt-in process and unique IP address.

3. Clean and analyze mailing lists
A “dirty” list – one with too many unsolicited, incorrect, out-of-date or duplicated addresses – hurts your campaign performance and your company’s delivery and sender
reputation. “List hygiene” means cleaning out bad addresses, which reduces undeliverable emails and helps you spot problems fast. Review your list to see who hasn’t opened or clicked for the last six months. Provide them with a compelling offer to re-engage. If that doesn’t work, try changing the frequency with which you contact them to test if that makes an impact in how they engage with you.

4. Be prepared for churn
While good email marketing will keep your list engaged, the reality is that you need to continually use opt-in strategies to keep it viable. Not only should you have subscriber retention programs in place, but you’ll also need acquisition programs since as many as 30% of email addresses churn each year. See the Bionic List Building Guide for more ideas.

5. Focus on list quality over list size
Growing your mailing list is important, but don’t do it at the expense of quality. While it may look impressive to have a large list, quality names should be your highest priority. Make sure your company has defined its target audience and focus your efforts on adding names that fit this target. You may not have a large number of names in your database, but careful targeting will mean you have a list of high-value prospects and customers that result in higher response rates and greater success.

6. With opt-ins, establish and build trust
An opt-in is a statement of faith from your subscriber. Respect that by asking only for the most necessary information at registration. If all you really need is a name and email address, ask only for that. If you need a bit more – say city or state if your product isn’t available everywhere or size of business for routing leads – ask for that as well. To keep from scaring prospects away, keep the request for data to a minimum. You can always use subsequent email campaigns to qualify and fill in more detailed information.

7. Respect recipients’ privacy
Respecting the privacy of your email recipients and subscribers is a good business practice and will also help you avoid legal and ethical problems. Include a short, simple email privacy statement within your opt-in form and link it to the full policy statement on your Website. Define your contact strategy, the format in which you’ll share content and if you can, give the subscriber options on format and frequency. Adhere to the policy and make sure that if you change it, you give your subscribers an opportunity to opt-in again.

8. Give recipients what they want and need
Your subscribers expect control. If you don’t give them what they want, they’ll go elsewhere. Let them decide the email format (text or HTML), contact frequency and content preferences, if they’d like to receive additional information beyond what they opted-in for. Then segment your lists to reflect those choices. It’s always more effective to contact someone on their schedule and under their terms and get a higher response rate than to try to force a schedule or terms on an unwilling recipient and risk their unsubscribe.

9. Design for the Inbox
Poor design and improper formatting frustrate users. If they can’t easily navigate your email or find the information they want at a glance, your messages will fall flat. Your email has to stand out in a crowded Inbox. Here are some tips for designing for the inbox and optimizing deliverability:

  • Be sure to test sample messages to see what performs.
  • Put your company name in the “from” line for fast
    recognition.
  • Add a “grabber” subject line – 50 characters or less.
  • Use teaser text and HTML colors and layout rather than
    an image so readers can get an immediate “preview” of
    your email even if images are disabled.
  • Put the important content – the offer, call to action,
    newsletter contents etc. – at the top of the email for
    immediate viewing. You only have seconds to make your
    case, so make the most them.

10. Check your email mechanics
Don’t forget to check your email mechanics on a regular basis. Some of the best campaigns fail because simple items like response links, the unsubscribe process, co-registration or
images fail. It takes time, but each email execution is valuable. Don’t frustrate your subscribers or waste your money by sending out an email that doesn’t have its most basic items working.  One of the best and simplest methods for making sure that the mechanics of each and every email campaign are optimized is to create and consistently utilize an email development and deployment checklist.

11. Test for correct rendering of emails on all email clients
HTML emails – with pictures, colors and graphics – can look or function very differently when viewed in different email clients. Here are a few ways to test for the correct rendering of your email messages across numerous clients before deploying your campaign:

  • Send a sample email to an account with each of the major
    providers – such as AOL, Earthlink, Gmail and Yahoo!
    – to spot bad links, poor rendering or other formatting
    issues.
  • Do the same for any email client that allows the receiver
    to use a preview pane or review without images – such as
    Outlook 2007.
  • Use an email service provider that helps you see how your
    email is rendered across clients.
  • Design the header of your email to provide the
    desired outcome regardless of email client. For instance,
    if you know that there’s a good chance your image-rich
    header will not be viewable in most email clients, use an
    Alt Tag that “sells” the idea or offer your image header is
    conveying.

12. Test for delivery and spam filters
Emails that are well targeted with great creative and compelling offers don’t do your company any good unless they’re actually delivered. Test your content against spam filters
and see how many of your emails are blocked. If you aren’t pleased with the results, optimize your email for Inbox delivery by creating good headers (as above), writing content that doesn’t look like spam and cultivating good ISP relations. If your current email solution doesn’t have a component to help you avoid spam filters, consider finding a solution that will analyze and determine the deliverability of your content.

13. Provide administrative functions in each email
Give subscribers the tools they need to manage their subscriptions, contact you, forward information to others and get more information, right in the email. Reputable email marketers respect their customers’ time and include this information in a clearly marked section, usually at the end of each email.  Don’t make them hunt for it.

14. Test something every time
Testing is a classic way for direct marketers to refine their efforts to get the best results. If each of your email campaigns doesn’t include a testing component, you’re missing out on an opportunity to improve your ROI. Some elements you may want to test include:

  • Subject lines
  • Offers
  • Deployment date or time
  • A new list, or segment your existing list to compare one
    segment against another

Your results will provide new ideas for more effective campaigns and help you get rid of offers, lists or creative that aren’t working.

15. Define your email value proposition (EVP)
Without a clear value proposition, your email won’t hit your recipient’s “internal Inbox” – the barometer in the mind of each recipient that tells them whether your email message is worth their time. Give your subscribers clear reasons to open your email messages every time by establishing and sticking to your own EVP. An EVP should:

  • Be unique to your company and tie back to your
    company’s business and/or marketing objectives.
  • Clearly define the value your email message brings
    to subscribers.

Define your EVP much like you would a positioning statement and make sure that it concentrates on how it will directly benefit your subscribers. Use your EVP as a measure when you review your content, creative, frequency and segmentation strategies. Most importantly, make sure that the content you offer to your subscribers is in keeping with the expectation you set with them when they opted-in and that the content continues to be relevant and valuable to that specific audience.

16. Segment lists for better results
Use the information you collected when your subscribers opted-in to divide your list into relevant segments, and then deliver distinct, targeted messages to each of those segments.
Beyond that, you may also want to segment your lists based on email and Web behavior such as which links recipients clicked on or what actions they’ve taken on your Website. Doing so will make your outgoing emails more meaningful to your subscribers, which results in improved response and conversion rates. Segmenting also helps you understand results and trends based on demographics and other audience-specific factors.

17. Personalize for greater relevance
Personalization uses recipients’ own information to create highly relevant and valuable email messages. This is more than putting a recipient’s name on the top of the email – it’s about creating content that specifically addresses the recipient’s behavior and interests such as buying history, hobbies, geographic location, format etc.

18. Be prepared for mobile devices and social media
The reality in today’s wired environment is that your email messages will be viewed on mobile devices – and your carefully designed HTML email will look like gibberish on most of them. This is particularly true in business-to-business marketing. Be aware of this and design your email messages accordingly. Or offer subscribers a mobile version.

Social media is another powerful tool on the rise. On its own, it can be used to message to your target much like email marketing, but by combining social media and email marketing, you have the opportunity to gain exponential response and ROI. Define your social media strategy, determine your social media vehicles (LinkedIn, Twitter etc.) and, as part of your execution plan, leverage your coverage in the social sphere to feed your email initiatives. You’ll not only gain further reach, but also engage prospects and customers in a more meaningful dialog.

19. Integrate email into your complete marketing mix
Email marketing works best when part of an integrated marketing plan. You’ll get a higher ROI when you incorporate email into your complete marketing mix including PPC, social media marketing, mobile, traditional direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows. For instance:

  • Design keyword-rich landing pages that will help with
    your SEO efforts, fulfill the offer within your email
    campaign and provide deeper information into the
    product or service you’re offering.
  • Promote newsletter content across multiple marketing
    touch points and post email information to your Website.
  • Use social media to increase opt-ins to your email list.
  • Remember mobile marketing. Consider using your email
    to promote a mobile campaign or offering your email to
    those who are already subscribed to your mobile alerts.

20. Deliver value continuously
Subscribers’ needs change over time. Your emails will compete with new and changing sources of content or offers that will affect your value proposition. Survey your recipients occasionally to learn their needs and interests and pay close attention to the response metrics that indicate whether your emails are getting stale. Analyze each deployment for revealing statistics on factors such as subject line, offer, links clicked, segmenting etc. By soliciting feedback, watching trends and staying in touch with the needs of your subscriber base you can re-tool your email campaigns to deliver consistent value while staying true
to your EVP and the expectations you established with your subscribers.

21. Focus on goals, not process metrics
Email campaign success should not be measured by counting open and click-through rates alone. Instead, establish objectives before each campaign and then measure performance against them. Metrics like number of transactions, demos initiated or white papers downloaded as a direct result of your email campaign are generally better markers of success than clicks or delivered emails. These measurable, goal-focused metrics will tell you if your email program is successful or needs refinement.

22. Use advanced automation
The simple “load and send” method of deploying emails doesn’t work anymore. You need to employ a whole range of advanced technologies – behavioral segmentation, detailed reporting, API database integration, dynamic content, triggers and more – to drive improved results and ROI of email campaigns in today’s marketing environment. For example, use triggers to send specific content to recipients based on their unique email actions.

Review every available report from your email marketing tool to gain the most robust picture possible. Choose an email marketing tool with strong analytics and a full suite of services. Then learn how to use them and put them to good use.

23. Tie into Web analytics
You may think that your Web analytics aren’t related to your email campaigns, but think again. The truth is, tying the two together can mean much more successful email initiatives.  For instance, when determining the best content to offer in your email message, take a look at the content most viewed or downloaded on your Website. Check out landing pages or shopping cart abandonment stats to determine how to overcome these issues with email.  Make sure you don’t silo analytics from other important areas when you’re working on email campaigns. All of this information used together can
provide better and more robust ROI tracking, more effective targeting of prospects and much more.

24. Allocate necessary resources
Many companies started using email marketing because it was more cost-effective than postal mail, but that’s all different now. The landscape – from ISP relations to technological innovation and government regulations – is more complex than ever. Your organizations must allocate adequate budgets, resources and know-how to do the job right and achieve your ROI goals.  Educate your team and key stakeholders about the resoures you need and make sure that your email solution provider has a full range of services in list management, content development, delivery and analytics.

25. Know the laws affecting email marketing, and comply
In the U.S., email marketers must follow email and privacy statutes in 36 states and also comply with CAN-SPAM, the federal email law. In addition, the E.U., Asia and Australia have their own anti-spam laws, as do most countries with an email presence. Adhering to these laws is critical – the consequences of breaking them can be dire. At a minimum be sure to:

  • Have an attorney with appropriate expertise review your
    email and privacy policies.
  • Audit your practices across all departments that manage
    email (not just marketing) and train everyone to follow
    correct procedures.
  • Conduct regular audits of your privacy policies and email
    practices to assure that you are in compliance with all current
    laws and best practices.

Remember, this activity is what we specialize in, conducting campaigns for dozens of clients. Interested in exploring what email marketing can do for you? Contact us and we’ll give you an idea what to expect.

I advise every single one of my clients that they need to collect email addresses (or at least SOME kind of address) to continue to build relationships with prospects and customers. One of the email marketing services I use (Vertical Response) has a great blog about this, this article by Janine Popick, the founder and CEO.

1. Put an offer on the back of your business cards to get people to sign up for your newsletter.

2. Tradeshows – Bring a clipboard or sign-up book with you to tradeshows and ask for permission to send email to those who sign up.

3. Include a newsletter sign-up link in your signature of all of your emails.

4. Send an opt-in email to your address book asking them to join your list.

5. Join your local chamber of commerce, email the member list (if it’s opt-in) about your services with a link to sign up to your newsletter.

6. Host your own event – Art galleries, software companies (one here has a party every quarter and invites the neighboring businesses), retail shops, consultants (lunch & learn) can all host an event and request attendees to sign up.

7. Offer a birthday club where you give something special to people who sign up.

8. Incentivize your employees – Give them $ for collecting VALID email addresses.

9. Giving something for free like a PDF? Make visitors sign up to your opt-in form before you let them download it.

10. Referrals – Ask you customers to refer you, and in exchange you’ll give them a discount.

11. Bouncebacks – Get them back! – Send a postcard or call them asking for their updated email address.

12. Trade newsletter space with a neighboring business, include a link for their opt-in form and ask them to include yours in their newsletter.

13. SEO – Make sure you optimize your site for your keywords. You need to be at the top of the natural search when people are looking for your products or services.

14. Giveaways – Send people something physical and ask for their email address as well as their postal address.

15. Do you have a postal list without emails? Send them a direct mail offer they can only get if they sign up to your email list.

16. Include opt-in forms on every page on your site.

17. Popup windows – When someone attempts to leave your site, pop up a window and ask for the email address.

18. Include a forward-to-a-friend link in your emails just in case your recipient wants to forward your content to someone they think will find it interesting.

19. Include a forward-to-a-friend on every page of your site.

20. Offer a community – Use Ning as your easy-to-set-up community and have your visitors interact and sign up for your newsletter.

21. Offer “Email only” discounts and don’t use those offers anywhere but email.

22. Telemarketing – If you’ve got people on the phone, don’t hang up until you ask if you can add them to your newsletter.

23. Put a fishbowl on your counter and do a weekly prize giveaway of your product – then announce it to your newsletter. Add everyone who put their card in on to your newsletter list.

24. Include an opt-in form inside your emails for those people who get your email forwarded to them.

25. Tradeshows – Collect business cards and scan them into a spreadsheet. Make sure you ask permission to send email to them, then mark the card.

26. Use Facebook – Host your own group and invite people to it, then post new links often. From time to time, post a link to sign up for your newsletter.

27. Use Facebook – Post the hosted link from your newsletter into Linked Items to spread the word.

28. Use Facebook – Include an opt-in form on your Facebook Fan page.

29. Use Twitter – Twitter the hosted link of your email campaign every time you launch.